Tuesday, January 19, 2010

syncope, and paralysis in the lone star state

so here's how the economy caused me to faint-really. N is participating in an eczema study that requires participants to have multiple blood draws, do allergy tests, and receive the yellow fever vaccine. she has the added obligation of traveling to national jewish hospital several times a week, which, for those of you not familiar with denver, is located at colfax and colorado - or as the locals know it, hooker central. the upside is she gets paid 600 bucks. here's where the fainting comes in. one day she says something like, since you're not working you should participate in the study, too. they need people without allergies and you also get paid. translation: get off the couch and go make some money. so i call and look into it, and sure enough they still need some folks on the control side, and we schedule it for the tuesday after the kids and i get back from texas (keep reading for that story). tuesday morning rolls around and i head down to the hospital, picking up a burrito on the way - it's important to eat before bloodletting. after 30 minutes of paperwork and releasing the hospital from responsibility from all but the most criminally negligent acts leading to my incapacitation, or death, we proceed to the check up, the allergy tests, and then the first (and biggest) blood draw. the phlebotomist was outstanding - almost didn't feel the stick. and halfway through we're talking about jobs and housing and then my peripheral vision goes cloudy and the woman standing six inches away from me (bleeding me dry, apparently) seems to have teleported herself to the other side of the hospital, and yet due to the miracle of modern science i can still hear her, and more importantly, speak to her - and i say i think i should lay down. and the next thing i know i'm being drug by my shoulders and belt loops to the closest bed to recover, and finish the blood letting. the doctor is called, and while checking on me says he knows N, and no she didn't pass out, BUT, my reaction is entirely common with the young and healthy. how healthy you ask? 112/57. how's yours N?

and the texas trip that delayed this lovely episode was my first in quite some time. if you've spent any time around me you know that i am quite proud of my heritage - i genuinely love being from texas. i am proud of the fact that my forebears helped to settle the state, and that my family members are still prominent in their various communities. my grandmother lives on a sizeable chunk of land in what many of us would see as the middle of nowhere, and my fondness for it aside, it can be quite lacking - especially in the creature comforts. for whatever else it may, or may not be, it is where the earliest generations of my family struck out to live as they would, so that the generations since may also have that opportunity. wherever else i go, it is where i want to return. our last time through N was pregnant with K1, and our reception from my mother (we having fallen out over my decision to join the church, and some other issues that had limited out interactions) was less than overwhelming. but the kids had never been there, and while K-squared met my grandmother when they were very young, they hadn't met anyone else, and so it was time to go home again. a good majority of my time was spent visiting elderly family members, who were thoroughly pleased to meet K-squared and were appropriately enamored by their charm and intellect. another chunk of my time was spent just intercepting the sweet tea that flows like water in the south from K-squared, who found the long tea spoons fascinating and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. of course no trip for me is complete without experiencing the local cuisine and i was treated to the best bbq on the planet, courtesy of my cousins who happened to play in a band with Don Henley before he made it big. and i was thoroughly pleased to be able to spend some quality time with my favorite uncle, Bill. he is an intensely proud and independent man who says very little, but says it well, and embodies many of the stereotypes of the south - primarily, ungroomed, uneducated, gun-loving, gear head who loves his beer and would have absolutely no problem shooting you where you stood if you slighted him. the reality is that he developed a passion for airplanes and motorcycles at an early age, and after getting his pilots license, opened up a small hangar where he could tinker with his bikes and fly to his hearts content. and he would have no problem shooting you where you stood if you slighted him - gotta love the south! so riding over to my grandmother's last year he hit a sandy spot on the highway and laid his bike over. the fall threw him into a ditch where he laid for 5-6 hours until someone spotted the bike, and then him, laying in the ditch. he was later told that if earlier injuries to his neck had been treated he might simply have stood, picked up the bike, and rode on along, cursing the cosmetic repairs needed to the bike. but after several moto-cross, motorcycle, and plane wrecks, his vertebrae served only a ceremonial purpose, and collapsed quite easily when he fell, partially paralyzing him from the neck down. after a year of limited treatment and therapy he has use of his arms, extremely limited fine motor skills, and one leg that moves shortly after command, and one that needs to be drug along. so i had a captive audience in my uncle Bill! the majority of the time we simply sat watching the tv. but when the weather turned and the rain that plagued our first two days stopped, and the temperature climbed to 70 degrees (the locals were whining about sub-60 temperatures) we worked out. for him it was stretching and limbering, and circulating pooling blood from his lower extremities. for me it was an opportunity to help someone i idolized as a child and who would never have asked for help as an able-bodied adult, as well as a pretty grueling workout manhandling stiff and unresponsive limbs for an hour and a half. i loved every minute of it. i am amazed by his acceptance of his situation, and the dignity with which he carries himself. he is not bitter or angry, as many in his situation are. he is determined to pick himself up, whack the dust off, and regain his lifestyle. he has already surpassed what his doctors said he would be able to do, and he is sure in his conviction that he will have his life back. i don't doubt that he will.
i was on the fence with my decision to go to texas. it's an expense that we just didn't need, and there were some unresolved issues that i didn't want to confront. but the more i thought about it the more i was sure i needed to go, and to take the kids with me. i did see my mom while we were there, and though we didn't clear the air necessarily, we did talk for the first time in nearly six years, and i'm glad it happened - i needed it. seeing my uncle and the way he is dealing with adversity surely greater than my current job situation helped me find a little clarity. mostly i realized that regardless of time or circumstance, home is home, where there's always a place at the table for you, and where you can always find yourself again.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

what's in a name...

i have no idea why, but i've been thinking about names lately, and their meanings. every name has meaning - some denote nobility, while others pay homage to the Almighty, and still others reflect natural and supernatural characteristics. the name Charles is simply a statement of fact, as Charles means 'man'. the ever-matronly Gertrude means 'spear of strength' after Saint Gertrude the Great. that 'ol Gert, she's great! growing up i knew some folks with...unusual names - April May June, Anna Rucksick, Zack Zack. i delivered furniture once to a Eugene Nimrod - really? what's the meaning behind those names? furthermore, how would one live up, or down, as it were, to any of those names? how does anyone live up to their name? my father was Ray John III. i came within a flea's fart of being Ray John IV. since #3 buckled so completely under the standard set by his forebears, i am relieved to be named anything else. but i like my name. i was named after Brian Boru, high king of Ireland. Brian, or in my case Bryan, means 'noble'. N laughs at that and she should. i fall far short - rather ignoble really. (maybe that's my purpose: to find my (inner?) nobility? but shouldn't that be the case for each of us?) N's name is more spot-on - hers means 'Christmas Day', and is doubly appropriate due to her faithfulness, and her love for the holiday. K1's name means 'little, fiery', like the ball of energy he is, and K2's means whatever she wants it to. sometimes a name takes us down memory lane, or possibly elm street, depending on what a particular person has meant to us. i have never met a Dan that i haven't disliked. and Ashley, as far as i'm concerned, may as well just call herself stripper. and maybe that's what i've been chewing on here - regardless of what my name means, or who held it before, i am hopeful that Bryan does not become someone else's Dan or Ashley.

Monday, August 24, 2009

loud mouth soup

My 4 year-old ratted me out yesterday. While getting ready for church N and I had a conversation that escalated into an argument involving some loud talking and perhaps some emphatic door closing. (We yelled. We slammed a couple of doors. (I won.)) Anyhow, when we arrived at church K-2 promptly informed Gramma that we had a fight. We're yellers. I yell at the TV when the Yankees are killing or being killed. N yells at traffic, as do Thing 1 and Thing 2. I yell at myself when I whack my finger with a hammer (rare occurrence). K-1 yells at K-2 to stop singing, which she is always doing. "STOP SINGING BK - STOOOOOOP!!!" She never stops. She doesn't even hear him, which leads to, what?, more yelling. K-2 doesn't yell so much as shriek or squeal, depending on her mood, hairstyle, whether N has selected shorts or a skirt, she can't button her shorts or skirt, or whether she's hungry.
We're passionate people. There is no line of which we are not firmly planted on one side or the other. Choose a side. Take a stand. Stand up and be counted. The irony here is that we are intensely private people, and are loathe to ask for help (or permission), seek council, or just talk (unless we're giving a talk, in which case we open up like a cheap pinata).
The thing is, mostly, I'm ok with this. No one in this house goes along to get along, and as the kids get older I want them to be more like this; to follow their own intuition and not some other loud mouth with mommy (or daddy) issues, or a lecherous uncle, or no common sense. I'll admit we can do a better job of picking our battles, but I'm proud we put up a fight. And hopefully when K-1 and K-2 are in the lone and dreary world they'll know there is a line, and that they have to take a stand.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


so a funny thing happened on the way home today. i got in my car and hooked my ipod (christmas gift - awesome!) and if you know how these things work then you understand that you can play them through your car radio. the station that i play mine through has always been clear - nothing playing on it. nada. zip. zero .zilch. unitl today. my ipod didn't play. instead there was a song playing on this particular station, and instead of getting annoyed (my typical response) and looking for another station i just went with it. i listened to the song and as soon as it was over the station was clear again. i don't make much out of these things typically but as being a better person in general and a better father in particular has been on my mind lately it struck me as a sign. what i'll do with it remains to be seen but i saw it at least and i'm thinking about it. so here are the lyrics and after reading them you tell me what to make of this whole thing...

Be careful little eyes what you see
It's the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it's the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

Be careful little ears what you hear
When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near
Be careful little lips what you say
For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray

The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you're thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day

...message received

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"there's a brown thing stuck in my underwear"

so we're having dinner, and K1 is excused due to a poor appetite (read: attitude). he's getting ready for bed, going to the bathroom, brushing his teeth, calling downstairs every 2 minutes with an inane question just to maintain his connection with us - the usual. the rest of us are still eating. so he yells down "there's a brown thing stuck in my underwear" and N and i grab our heads and look deep into our laps and try desperately not to laugh, or lose our dinner. and the first thought in my head was "blackmail". buddy, from this moment on i own you. you miss curfew, i'm sitting your pals down in front of this posting, and already relishing the blush on your cheeks. you ever ding my car, i'm texting this post to every one on your friends list. you start to "pull away" to spend more time with some hot little number, i'll email her this link.
love you buddy - always

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I've been thinking about some things lately, and they mostly came about after learning recently that my Dad has lung cancer - after 30-some years of smoking is this really shocking? Surprisingly, yes. I was shocked. Mostly I was shocked that, after 6 years of no contact from my dad, and no qualms with that lack of contact, I actually gave a crap. Those of you who know me know that I don't have a great relationship with either of my parents. They're terrible parents, and they struggle with being even just tolerable people. In cutting ties with them I meant to shield K-squared from the unnecessary drama and the eventual let downs that would come from having a relationship with them. And maybe I just didn't want to deal with their crap anymore. Who really knows what motivates a person to do the things they do?
So here we are - it's the beginning of October and we're planning a trip to Oklahoma to see my Dad and his family for Thanksgiving. Sort of a "Last Supper at the Asylum". And I'm looking forward to it. And that shocks me too. Who knows why? Maybe I've been able to look at our past together from a different perspective. Maybe his being sick simply wipes the slate clean. Maybe I've learned over the past few years what being a parent is and should be about, and that perhaps, even as the child here, I have a responsibility (or maybe just desire - who knows?) to help him realize that even as he's dying it's not too late to learn these things as well. Maybe I'm just a masochist.
Anyhow, this is what I've been thinking - I want K-squared to know that their parents love them completely, no strings attached - that they are loved regardless of how smart they are, or how attractive they are, or how competitive they are. I want them to know that we will never leave them, or make them feel responsible for our shortcomings and failures. We will never have to make up for lost time, or make a last ditch effort to have a relationship. I want them to know that they bring us joy, that we are proud of them, that we support them even though we may wince at their choice of...whatever, or whomever, or however - as long as they make that choice for themselves, and not to please someone else. I want them to know that they are the best thing to happen to me, even if they're "done" and need to be wiped.
Maybe this is all they really need to know

Friday, June 20, 2008

my man

I can't believe you're already five - not because it means I'm five years older or you're getting bigger but because it means simply that five years have come and gone and it feels as though I've missed it - blink. I was in class when you said your first word and took your first step. It killed me to come home and hear that you did these things without me. But I am so impressed by the fact that you did these on your terms - and that a shaky step has become a fleet footed romp, and a mispronounced word has become a thoughtful compliment or a brilliant observation. You are becoming an impressive young man. I love how active you are (most of the time) - I am so proud to see you outrun or outlast EVERY other kid around, and I envy your rocket arm. It's astounding how quickly you figure things out - you really are a mechanical genius. At two, when you couldn't say "radio" you were able to toddle yourself down to Aunties's, turn on her clock radio (little switch in back), dance your little heart out, then turn it off and toddle back up the stairs when you were done. Brilliant! I love your spirit of fairness and generosity - the way you follow the rules and the way you care for your sister. I feel honored to be your father - you amaze me every day. You say you want to be just like me, but I want you to be better and in so many ways you already are - keep it up little man